Summer weather is ideal for treating your family to Mexican Food and what tastes better than Grilled Shrimp nestling inside a Quesadilla? Add to that freshly made Guacamole and Salsa Cruda. A little salad and some Mexican Rice and you are set for the evening. Sound like too much work – well maybe a little but it is also fun if you love to cook and simple enough for those of you who do not love to cook. Follow the directions and photos below and you will be able to cook up a wonderful meal for your family or even for your next party! Okay, let’s get busy!
The first thing you need to do is check up on the items that you have in your kitchen and then make a list of those that you will need to purchase. Follow the simple suggestions below or create your own list.
Garlic & Cilantro
Shrimp (preferably large ones – they have more flavor)
Tomatoes & Avocadoes
Cheese for Quesadillas (your preference)
Sour Cream or Mexican Crema
Here are the links for the recipes for the Grilled Shrimp,
Once you have your ingredients on hand and know when you are going to be serving the Quesadillas you can plan your preparation. The Salsa can be prepared hours ahead of time, unlike the Guacamole which tends to oxidize and become unappetizing in appearance. The Shrimp can be shelled and de-veined, but you do NOT WANT TO MARINATE them for more than 20 minutes before grilling, otherwise they will become mealy, mushy and not appetizing at all.
Probably Quesadillas are not going to be the only thing on your menu so you can prepare the other items ahead. Re-fried Beans can be prepared hours ahead and reheated as can Mexican Rice. If you are planning on having a salad, the components can be washed, dried and sliced and then refrigerated until just before serving time.
Shown below is a suggested timetable for preparation and serving. To prepare this meal and have everything come together at the proposed time, I would start the preparations no later than two hours before serving time.
1. Wash, dry and slice, grate or dice Salad Ingredients.
2. Prepare Salsa and refrigerate.
3. Cook the re-fried Beans and set aside. If you are using canned re-fried beans, saute some diced onion in a little Olive Oil before adding the beans. Also, if you are using canned beans, prepared just before serving. Home-made re-fried beans take hours to prepare, especially if you are using dried beans that have to be soaked and cooked. Actually, the canned ones are very good, especially if you doctor them up a little bit with the sauteed onions and anything else that you may wish, like maybe cilantro.
4. Make the Mexican Rice and set aside. Mexican Rice
5. Shred your Cheese or Cheeses, depending on whether you use one or more varieties.
6. About 30 minutes before serving time, prepare your Guacamole. To prevent it from oxidizing squeeze a thin layer of Lime Juice on the surface and then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until serving time.
7. Prepare the Shrimp – remove the Shrimp Shells and save to make Seafood Stock. If using medium size Shrimp, slit down the back and remove the vein. Wash and dry. If using large Shrimp, slice in half lengthwise. Be sure to remove the vein. Wash and dry.
8. Prepare the marinade per the directions in the Grilled Shrimp Recipe. Allow the Shrimp to marinate for at least 15 minutes but no longer than 20. (Marinating the Shrimp too long will make them mushy and mealy.)
9. Before grilling the shrimp, make sure you have all your other dishes ready to serve. Grill the Shrimp per the recipe directions.
10. Place 2-3 Tablespoons of shredded Cheese in the middle of a Flour Tortilla; top with 3-4 pieces of Shrimp 2-3 Tbsps. more Cheese and a few sliced Scallions. Add a second Tortilla on top.
11. Place the filled Tortillas on a lightly greased skillet or comal (griddle) and cook on each side until golden in color and the Cheese begins to melt. (If you have trouble keeping the two tortillas together, secure them with wooden sandwich picks – remove the picks before serving.
12. Remove from the griddle with a spatula; remove the sandwich picks and serve.
13. Serve Guacamole, Salsa and Sour Cream on the side.
On Monday we had Tacos for Dinner. There are just certain things that cannot be made in amounts small enough for two people, therefore there are leftovers. Not wanting to throw out the leftovers, I decided to turn them into a new dish. The items that were left over was the cooked Ground Beef Mixture that we used for the Tacos along with Salsa and diced Tomatoes. In the freezer I had some Basil Pasta that I had made at a previous meal.
The Basil Pasta was homemade and even though it was a very small amount, it was so good (I make very thin pasta which we love) I just couldn’t throw it away. In addition, I had another type of pasta in the freezer. The second pasta was completely different from the Basil Pasta, but that didn’t matter. In addition, there was some shredded Mozzarella Cheese and Corn Kernels. I added some Enchilada Sauce (also in the freezer) to the Salsa and diced Tomatoes.
I thinly sliced some Green Onions (Scallions) and Olives. These two items were used as a garnish on top of the finished dish.
So here is what I did to create the Mexican Lasagna.
- I took my 9 x9 glass baking dish and lightly coated the bottom with a small amount of Olive Oil.
- The Basil Pasta was laid out on the bottom of the dish. (Coincidentally, there was just enough to cover the bottom.
- Next, I added part of the Enchilada Sauce/Salsa/Tomato Mixture to the cooked Ground Beef and tossed it all together. Then the Beef was placed on top of the Basil Pasta.
- Next came a layer of Corn Kernels. ( No need to cook – this gets done when you bake the Lasagna)
- On top of the Corn I placed the other Pasta that I had leftover and then added some more of the Sauce.
- On top of the Sauce went the shredded Cheese and on top of this went the Green Onions and Sliced Olives. Since I put this together in the morning it had to be refrigerated until dinner time.
- About 45 minutes before dinner I placed the dish of Lasagna in a cold oven. (Do not put cold glass in a hot oven – the sudden temperature differential will cause the glass to expand too rapidly and break)
- I then turned the oven to 350 degrees and allowed the Lasagna to cook until it was heated through and the cheese on top had melted. (You can tell when it is done because not only will the cheese melt, but the sauce will start steaming when it becomes heated)
Thursday, October 4th is ‘National Taco Day’. Like many other ethnic foods, Tacos have become as American as Apple Pie, although Apple Pie actually originated in England. Just like people, there are many variations of tacos. If you want authentic tacos, try going to Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles where there are many Mexican Restaurants. Here in Newbury Park, we have a taco place that is as authentic as I have ever eaten here in the States. It is called ‘Taco Sanchez’ and it is situated in the old Taco Bell building by Roma’s Italian Deli right off of Borchard Road.
Pictured are Carne Asado Tacos
with Mango Salsa and Guacamole
Since Thursday is ‘National Taco Day’, it would be fun to make tacos for your family and/or your friends for dinner. Tacos are one of those dishes that can be turned into party food very easily and what is more fun than to have a Taco Bar Party. To make a Taco Bar Party or just Tacos for dinner you will need some important ingredients and you will have to decide what fillings your Tacos should have.
MEAT FILLINGS ACCOMPANIMENTS
- Carne Asada (Beef) Salsa Cruda
- Carnitas (Pork) Guacamole
- Chicken Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce
- Shrimp Diced Tomatoes
- Lobster Shredded Cheese
- Ahi Green Onions
- Tofu Sliced Radishes
Crema (Mexican version of Creme Fraiche)
Grilled Scallions (Green Onions)
To make your Tacos, it is best to prep all the items ahead of time, except maybe for the Meat Fillings which should be hot when served. Some items can be reheated, but most are best right after being origianlly cooked.
Prepare your Garnishes or Accompaniments first and refrigerate if there is going to be a lot of time between prep and serving.
salsa-cruda/ is an uncooked Tomato Salsa usually made with Tomatoes, Chilies, Garlic and Cilantro along with a little Salt and the Juice of a Lime or two.
Guacamole is a wonderful condiment made from Avocadoes, Garlic, Jalapenos (optional), Salt, Cilantro and Lime Juice. The Guacamole we were served in Guadlajara was simply mashed Avocadoes and Lime Juice, but I like it with the additional ingredients listed above. Mole refers to ‘sauce’ and the name guaca as told to me by one of my Hispanic Students just means crazy, mixed, so therefore,Guacamole is just a sauce of ‘mixed up’ Avocadoes. Hence, the mashed Avocadoes and Lime in Guadalajara. The lime wasn’t even in it – just served on the side. For the recipe go to chunky-guacamole/
Shredded Lettuce and Diced Tomaotes
The filling that I recently used was Ground Beef cooked with Garlic, diced Onions and diced Red Bell Pepper or Pimiento in Spanish. The Garlic and Onions were sauteed first and then the Beef was added. The Bell Peppers were added just at the end to avoid being overcooked.
Keep the Meat warm while frying your Taco Shells. You can also do the Taco Shells ahead and keep warm in the oven. Tacos are usually made from Corn Tortillas, but you can also use Flour Tortillas, especially if you want soft tacos. Corn Tortillas are usually fried crisp but you can also cook them so that they will be soft. When frying your Tortillas in Oil, be sure to either drain them on a rack set over a baking pan or drain on paper towels. The rack method is best in that the oil drips down. With the paper towels, the Taco Shells will be sitting on the oil that drains off of them. First fry them on each side, flat then use a wooden spoon to help fold them and leave a space for the filling to be put into.
Mexican Fruit Salad is a nice accompaniment to a Taco Meal. Use Tropical Fruit such as Papaya, Pineapple, Mango and Melons.
To complete the meal, add Mexican Rice mexican-rice/ or refried Beans.
Whichever way you make your Tacos, enjoy them or if you don’t feel like cooking, just go to your local Tacqueria!
ENTERTAINING FOR CINCO DE MAYO
Cinco de Mayo is the Fifth of May and is a Mexican national Holiday which celebrates the Mexican Victory over the French at Puebla in 1862. Cinco de Mayo is a time for celebration and fiestas throughout Mexico and throughout much of the United States. Cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago and Colorado have Cinco de Mayo Festivals. For those of us who do not live near where these festivities are planned or who like to celebrate at home, Cinco de Mayo is a great time to have your own party, whether it be for family, friends or your children. Your party can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like to make it. Sometimes though, simple can be best. When one tries to be elaborate, many complications can get in the way, so the following paragraphs will be a guide to a simple Cinco de Mayo Celebration at home either in your house or backyard.
Let’sstart with the decorations. The first thing you would want to buy would be the center piece of your party and that is a Pinanta. A pinata is made from paper maiche and comes in many different shapes and is usually filled with candy and other treats. The Mexican Flag is Red, White and Green and much of the Paper Goods that are made for Cinco de Mayo will be made in those colors but there will also be additional varieties that are very colorful. You can keep it simple and purchase solid shades so that leftovers can be used for other parties or you can go all out and buy paper goods that are made specifically for this event. Following is a list of paper goods and other items that you may wish to purchase for a Cinco de Mayo party:
- Tablecloths & Napkins
- Paper or Plastic Plates and Cups
- Cutlery to Match
(these can be made from crepe paper)
Flag (small paper ones for favors or party bags)
- A piñata ]to fill with goodies and for the children to break
- A Punch Bowl
The next item to think about would be the food you serve. A great way to serve food for a large crowd is to have a ‘build your own taco bar’ Purchase or prepare the meat fillings and set them out in warmers or chafing dishes for guests to help themselves. You would also need a variety of condiments. Listed below are suggested fillings for Tacos and Condiments to go along with them.
- Carne Asada (Beef)
- Tomato Salsa
- Carnitas (Pork)
- Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce
- Shredded Cheese
- Diced Tomatoes
Crema (Mexican version of Creme Fraiche)
Grilled Scallions (Green Onions)
Of course you are going to need tortillas for your tacos. Authentic tacos are made with soft shells which you can just steam, microwave or heat up on a hot grill or over a gas flame. If you like crispy shells (best made with corn tortillas) you can do them ahead of time or purchase them already made.
Most of the meat items and condiments can be made or prepared ahead of time. If making the meat items ahead of time, undercook them slightly so that when you reheat them they won’t get overcooked. Shredded Cabbage keeps better than shredded lettuce and is actually more authentic than lettuce. Salsa keeps well for many days, but guacamole is best made right before serving as the avocado has a tendency to darken. Non Alcoholic Beverages such as Virgin Strawberry Margaritas or horchata can be served.
Other Menu Items which you may wish to have are:
- Fruit Salad
- Rice & Beans
Watch our website (Recipe Section) for Mexican Recipes you may wish to try.